Biodiversity and agriculture: Production frontiers as a framework for exploring trade-offs and evaluating policy

F. Patrick Smith, Russell Gorddard, Alan P. N. House, Sue McIntyre, Suzanne M. Prober

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Increasing global demand for agricultural products will continue to affect biodiversity. Various strategies to address this tension, such as payments for ecosystem services, wildlife-friendly farming, and conservation-reserve planning, emphasize different aspects of the system and different policy approaches. We argue that the strategic approach must be matched to the region. That is, land-use policy and research agendas focusing on improving agronomic and ecological functioning need to be coordinated, and informed by integrated knowledge about the ecological, agronomic and socio-economic characteristics of a region. We trial the use of agricultural-production and biodiversity-conservation possibility sets as an integrating framework. We find two benefits. First, the process of developing production possibility frontiers enables researchers from different disciplines to jointly identify and debate the critical types and scales of interactions among production and biodiversity where there exist opportunities for improving the system. Second, we demonstrate how the shape of the biodiversity-production trade-off frontier, and where existing landscapes sit in relation to it, can determine the effectiveness of a policy in achieving production and conservation goals. Production possibility frontiers therefore provide a simple, flexible tool for a critical trans-disciplinary appraisal of policy, and can guide the choice of more sophisticated approaches to managing agricultural landscapes. Crown Copyright (C) 2012 Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-94
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012


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